Simmi, MM(DU), Mullana

Ramya, Alliance University, Bengaluru

Ipsa, IMS Unison Dehradhun

Khushi Malhotra, JEMTECH Noida

Priyanshu Bhayana, NLU Orissa

Co-Authored and Edited By: Tanya Kanchan Soni, HNLU Raipur


Never knew that a disease (named corona virus) can affect this much to our general public and society. Various religions, politics, disputes are kept aside by the people and all are trying to survive from this hard time. Not only this many other unfortunate things had happened in this year 2020 whereas one thing that we see as happening good nowadays is to nature. Nature is genuinely healing. It can undo the damages done by human beings. We see happy organisms, clean rivers, decreasing pollution, and better weather conditions. One thing we can conclude is, for preventing environmental conditions the only possible demand from our nature is to stay away. Because at any cost we people will never allow our environment to stay happy with greenery, happy organisms and without pollution.

Coming to the current scenario Yamuna river is the prime example as the quality of water has improved a lot when people are locked in their houses. Recently Delhi pollution control committee surveyed and found that Yamuna river is cleaner than ever before. Even the govt. And other organizations could not do it in decades. It was about 33%. But because no proactive steps were taken to protect these gains, the pollution level has risen again because of unlock 1.0 . ANI reported the toxic foam in river Yamuna due to a rise in pollution level. This is also hazardous for people who live in nearby areas.

Environmental laws and policy making has always been a two pronged debate within the Indian scenario. With the pollution levels being hazardously high, up to indeterminably cautious extents, India has continually aimed at regulating the use and misuse of its resources. Within the lawmakers’ sphere, the regulation of environmental laws has been undertaken majorly post the ratification of the Stockholm Convention, also known as, United Nation Conference on Human Environment.

The Convention under its second provision states that “The protection and improvement of the human environment is a major issue which affects the well-being of peoples and economic development throughout the world; it is the urgent desire of the peoples of the whole world and the duty of all Governments.”[1] Thus the Indian policy makers instituted articles 48A and 51A in the Constitution of India and hence the proliferation of Indian Environmental laws began.


The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974, came into force on 23rd of March 1974 governing the states of Assam, Bihar, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Tripura and West Bengal and the Union Territories of India.[2]

The legislation as intended at regulating provisions regarding the prevention and regulation of water control the judicious usage of such resources, the penalties pertaining to such offences as may be found incompliant to the legislation and for the constitution of boards that govern the provisions of this legislation. The legislation further advocates for expedient resolution in matters and grievances pertaining to its aegis and has been enforced under the provisions of articles 249 and 250 of The Constitution of India.[3]

Chapter II of the act deals with the constitution of Central and State boards for active prevention of violations of the provisions of the Act. Sections 3 and 4 deal with the constitution and establishment of the boards, respectively as under;

3. Constitution of Central Board (1) The Central Government shall, with effect from such date (being a date not later than six months of the commencement of this Act in the States of Assam, Bihar, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Tripura and West Bengal and in the Union Territories) as it may, by notification in the Official Gazette, appoint, constitute a Central Board to be called the 4 [Central Pollution Control Board] to exercise the powers conferred on and perform the functions assigned to that Board under this Act.[4]

4. Constitution of State Boards (1) The State Government shall, with effect from such date 9 [***] as it may, by notification in the Official Gazette, appoint, constitute a 10[State Pollution Control Board,] under such name as may be specified in the notification, to exercise the powers conferred on and perform the functions assigned to that Board under this Act.[5]

The act has been amended twice, i.e. in 1978 and 1988, to further discern and regulate all the activities under its purview


● The act provides the maintenance and restoration of the quality of all types of surface and groundwater.

● It gives some important definitions of important terms used in the Act.

● It provides the establishment of central and state boards to control the pollution under sections 3 and 4of the water act respectively.

● The act has provisions by which a joint board of 2 or more adjoining states can be made.

● It grants them powers and functions to control pollution of the state as well as the country.

● The qualification, T&C, conditions for the disqualification of members of the Board are specified in the Act.

● Consent of the pollution control board is required in order to open new outlets and for discharging into streams and wells.

● The use of streams and wells for the disposal of pollutants is strictly prohibited in this Act.

● Act also consists of some provisions regarding funds, budgets, accounts, and audits of the central and state pollution control boards.


Discharging sewage as well as industrial waste is the leading cause of death which can be reduced with some efforts like; keeping an eye on the industries that try to pollute water, regularly monitoring freshwater resources, checking groundwater, constructing sanitary landfills, helping managing waste, throwing garbage only into dumping bins, Also stopping others from dumping garbage in rivers, disposing of paints or oils carefully, giving awareness to others, saving and boiling water at home, etc.


We know that the Act has many aspects covered for the preservation of water pollution but what could be the possible remedy in case of emergency? Like in case of any project going on which causes pollution, issues prohibiting orders of discharging any poisonous matter, etc. Well in that case under Section 32 of the said act State board can issue orders to remove the matter. Also, under sec 24 and 43 use of stream and well is prohibited for disposal otherwise there is a penalty.


Water is one of the essentials for the existence of life. Every human being has the right to safe and pure drinking water. Out of a number of documents in the world, Indian Constitution is the one recognising right to water as a fundamental right.

Article 21 of the Indian Constitution is not a reservoir only for right to life or privacy but encompasses a wide range of rights such as right to clean environment, right to speedy trial to right to pollution free water. From time to time to the Supreme Court has held such a view in a number of cases.

In BandhuMuktiMorcha v. Union of India[6],supreme Court held that, the bonded labours are entitled to receive pure drinking water, which forms a part of article 21 of the Indian Constitution.

Similarly, in Subhash Kumar v. State of Bihar[7], The apex court observed that right to pollution free water falls under the ambit of article 21.

MC Mehta v. Kamal Nath[8], is a landmark judgement of environment law. In environment law, there exist Public Trust Doctrine, which implies that the state is a trustee of all the natural resources within its territory thus, responsible for maintaining clean water and pollution freeatmosphere.

In Narmada BachaoAndolanv.Union of India[9], The Supreme Court in its judgement held that water is one of the bases to sustain and therefore, forms a part of human rights and right to life under article 21 of the Indian constitution.

InA.P.Pollution Control Board IIv. Professor M.V. Nayadu[10], “Asserted that the state is under the obligation to provide safe drinking water to its citizens.


As we know water is an essential component for everybody whether it is for human beings or animals or the environment and with changing times we observed that how the quality of water is being affected by human activities which lead to water pollution.

The Water (prevention and control of pollution) act 1974 was introduced to prevent and control the water pollution that has been increased with the changing times and the main aim of the Act is to restore and maintain the quality of water for establishment.

The above Act is a comprehensive legislation which provides the functions and powers to the Board to carry out the purpose of prevention and control of water pollution.


“Board “means either the central board or the state board.

Section 2 (e) of the Act defines what is pollution, according to Section 2(e) pollution means any contamination of water or alteration of the physical, chemical and biological properties of water or disposing of any sewage waste in water which is likely to cause nuisance or renders such water to be harmful to public health or safety or to domestic, industrial or other legitimate use or harmful to the life and health of the animals and aquatic plants.

Includes- watercourse (flowing or dry), inland water whether natural or artificial, subterranean water or sea or tidal waters as the state may prescribe from time to time.

According to Section 2 (b) Central Board means Central Pollution Control Board.

According to Section 2 (h) State Board means State Pollution Control Board.


Section 16 provides the functions of Central Pollution Control Board-

Advise the Central Government on any matter concerning the prevention and control of water pollution.

Coordinate the activities of the State Boards and resolve disputes among them.

Provide technical assistance and guidance to the State Boards, carry out and sponsor investigations and research relating to problems of water pollution and prevention, control or abatement of water pollution.

Plan and organize the training of persons engaged or to be engaged in for the prevention, control or abatement of water pollution on such terms and conditions as the Central Board may specify.

Organize through mass media a comprehensive program regarding the prevention and control of water pollution.

Central Board’s role is to assist the Central government on the matters related to controlling and prevention of water pollution by coordinating activities among the State boards and by organizing comprehensive programmes to achieve the aforesaid objective in a standardized manner.


Section 17 provides the functions of State Pollution Control Board-

To plan a comprehensive program for preventing and controlling the pollution of the wells and streams in the state and to secure its execution.

To advise the State Government on matters relating to prevention and controlling water pollution.

Collaborating with the central board to train persons employed or to be employed in preventing, controlling water pollution.

To lay down, modify the effluent standards of sewage and trade effluents and for the quality of receiving water resulting from the discharge of effluents and to classify waters of the state.

To evolve methods of utilizing the sewage and suitable trade effluents in agriculture.

The state Board has the authority to set up laboratories to enable the board to perform its function efficiently, including collecting samples of water from any stream or sewage or trade effluents.

The main function of all State Boards that they are entitled is to plan comprehensive plan for the control and prevention of water pollution in rivers, streams, wells etc. and collect information relating to the water pollution and initiate the investigations and research related to the problems of water pollution.

The State Board also has the function to oversee all water purification plants and to inspect sewage or effluents for treatment of water sewages. And they can set laboratories wherein the sample of water from the river or well is taken and checked for any sewage or effluents is there or not in the water[12].


In 2015, the project to clean Ganga and its tributaries was kicked off by the NDA government with an initial budget of Rs. 20,000 Crore and was given a status of an authority in 2016. The project established twin objectives of effective abatement of pollution, conservation and rejuvenation of National River Ganga. The project focused on building Sewerage Treatment Infrastructure, River-Surface Cleaning, Afforestation, Industrial Effluent Monitoring, River-Front Development, maintaining Biodiversity, Public Awareness and establishment of Ganga Gram. Its implementation has been divided into Entry-Level Activities, Medium-Term Activities, and Long-Term Activities. Though the project still needs to be fully carried, it has been one of the successful river cleaning and development projects in India.


Several already in-action water treating projects have been seen, but what makes this project of great value is that it did not come out of a bill or an Act of the parliament rather though a campaign started by Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar on March 16, 2010. The project focuses on cleaning the Yamuna river which acts as the lifeline of the capital. “A staggering 3.6 billion tons of untreated sewage flows daily into the Yamuna, and the river supplies 60% of the water needed by the Delhi region. The situation is dire. We need to act now. And one single organization or entity cannot do things all by itself. Only collectively can this clean-up be possible.” Within years the campaign stretched beyond just cleaning Yamuna. It motivated children and the common mass to join hands for contribution, promoted environment care, held customized stress management majorly focusing on underprivileged sections and contributed in launching many other programs such as the 'Health Walk' and the 'Clean Delhi Drive'.

Functions of Central Board and State Board:


• Advise the central government on any matter related to the prevention and control of water pollution.

• Coordinate the activities of the State Boards and resolve disputes between them.

• Provide technical assistance and guidance to the State Boards, carry out and sponsor research and investigations related to water pollution problems and prevention, control or reduction of water pollution.

• Plan and organize the training of people involved or who will participate in programs for the prevention, control or reduction of water pollution.

• Collect, compile and publish technical and statistical data related to water pollution and the measures designed for its effective prevention and control.


• Plan a comprehensive program for the prevention, control or reduction of contamination of streams and wells in the State.

• Advise the State Government on any matter related to the prevention, control or reduction of water pollution.

• Promote, carry out and participate in research and investigations related to water pollution problems and prevention, control or reduction of water pollution.

• Collaborate with the Central Board in organizing the training of people involved or involved in programs related to the prevention, control or reduction of water pollution.

• Inspect wastewater or commercial effluents, works and plants for the treatment of wastewater and commercial effluents and to review plans, specifications, or other data related to established water treatment plants.

• To develop methods of using suitable wastewater and commercial effluents in agriculture.

• To develop economic and reliable methods of treating wastewater and commercial effluents, taking into account the particular conditions of the soils, the climate and the water resources of different regions.[13]


Section 20 (2) & (3) states that if any person fails to obey the orders of the Board then the person will be punishable for imprisonment for 3 months or fine or both.

Section 42 provides penalties and fines for certain acts including pulling down pillars, Obstructs any person acting under the orders or direction of the Board, Damages any works or property belonging to the Board and Failure to furnish any officer other employee of the Board any information required.

And for the same the fine and penalty is imprisonment up to three months or with fine of Rs. 10,000/- or both.


The Supreme Court (SC) issued its verdict on the Bichhri case, Written Petition No. 967 of 1989. The judges Dalveer Bhandari and HL Dattu imposed a fine of Rs 38,385 crore on Hindustan Agro Chemicals Ltd (HACL) with compound interest since 1997 for the remediation of more than 350 hectares of land in Bichhri. The Court also imposed a fine of Rs 10 Lakh on HACL for keeping the litigation alive for almost 15 years, despite the court having ordered the petition in 1997, imposing the Polluter Pays Principle according to which the polluter must pay for the harm done to human beings and the environment. The land in Bichhri was contaminated by the indiscriminate discharge of sulfuric acid from the group of chemical industries in and around Bichhri. Untreated toxic sewage was also allowed to flow freely and seeped deep into the ground contaminating the aquifers and groundwater supply. Large tracts of land became infertile, and hundreds of villagers suffered serious health problems.[15]

M.C. Mehta v. Union of India & Ors on 12 January, 1988

The Court held that, despite the provisions mentioned above in the Water (Pollution Prevention and Control) Act of 1974, the State Board did not take effective measures to prevent the discharge of effluents into the Ganges River. Furthermore, despite the provisions of the Environmental Protection Act, the Central Government did not take effective measures to avoid public nuisance caused by the tanneries in Kanpur. The Court ordered the tanneries to establish primary treatment plants, if not secondary treatment plants. That is the minimum that tanneries must do in the circumstances of the case. The Court further held that the financial capacity of tanneries should be considered irrelevant while requiring them to establish primary treatment plants. Just as an industry that cannot pay minimum wages to its workers cannot be allowed to exist, a tannery that cannot establish a primary treatment plant cannot continue to exist due to the adverse effect on the general public that is likely to the discharge of the commercial effluents from the tannery to the Ganges River will take place and would overcome any inconvenience that may be caused to management and the manpower employed due to its closure.[16]


Water pollution has ever since remained a prominent issue of India. Series of policies, programs and spending have been spent. The issue is so huge and diverse that it is very difficult to protect the water bodies without any proper legislation. Unless and until there exists a set of rules, no action will prove of any help. Hence, the Act of 1974 provides for major measures by which the water bodies and the pollution therein could be controlled. It sets up standards and establishes boards at central and state levels to monitor and overcome the problem that our pious rivers, moreover the environment face.

[1]Declaration of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment,G.A. Res. 2994 (XXVII), U.N. GAOR, 27h Sess., U.N. Doc. A/RES/2994 (Dec. 15, 1972). [2]Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974, No. 6, Acts of Parliament, 1974 §1 (India). [3]India 249, 250. [4]Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974, No. 6, Acts of Parliament, 1974 §3 (India). [5]Id.§ 4. [6] AIR 1984 SC 802 [7] AIR 1991 SC 420 [8] (1997) 1 SCC 388 [9] (2000) 10 SCC 664 [10] (2001) 2 SCC 62 [11] THE WATER (PREVENTION AND CONTROL OF POLLUTION) ACT, 1974 [12]Functions of State Boards, Water Act 1974 to prevent and control water pollution,at%20the%20centre%20and%20states. [13] <> accessed on 26th July 2020,12:40. [14] Penalties and fines, [15] Indian Council For Enviro-Legal Action vs Union Of India & Ors on 18 July, 2011,(1996) 3 SCC 212.(26 July 2020; 12:52), [16] M.C.Mehta v. Union of India, [1987] 4 SCC 463,(26 July 12:35),,Mehta%20v.&text=The%20Environment%20(Protection)%20Act%2C%201986%2C%20contained%20provisions%20relating,abatement%20of%20pollution%20of%20water.

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